Tag Archives: Art

ATMOSPHERIC PERSPECTIVE IN TUSCAN MURAL by Jeff Raum

As someone who has created their own murals for clients, I often look for inspiration and guidance from respected peers.  I was delighted therefore that renowned muralist Jeff Raum has agreed to give us a mini-tutorial on ‘Atmospheric Perspective’ despite his hectic schedule.

Mike

Venus and Adonis (detail) 11' diameter ceiling medallion.

Venus and Adonis (detail) 11′ diameter ceiling medallion by Jeff Raum

” When Jeff Raum’s kindergarten teacher wrote a note to his mom saying that he had talent and should be encouraged, he knew that he had found his calling. He won a national poster competition in first grade and three of his paintings were displayed at the Baltimore Museum of Art that same year. In eighth grade, he became the youngest person ever to win the National Plastercraft Competition.

Jeff’s long string of charmed art achievements came to an abrupt end when he was exposed to the college art arena. He was unhappy with how the professors looked down their noses at realism. He formed a professional fraternity, Alpha Gamma Tao and started student meetings to discuss what was needed for a satisfactory commercial design program. Jeff presented his findings to the dean and facility, and in his senior year, the new program was implemented. After he graduated with a B.F.A. in commercial design, the entire art faculty was fired.

Jeff Raum

Jeff Raum

In 1983, Jeff began his career as a medical illustrator for hospitals. He soon tired of creating images of diseased organs and moved to Manhattan to work as a scenic artist for 3-D animated TV commercials, eventually being promoted to art director. When creating art to sell product grew tiring as well, he moved on to Broadway, spending three years as a make-up designer for the productions of I’m Not Rappaport and Into The Woods.

Wanting to leave the frantic energy of New York behind, Jeff moved to Los Angeles. Unable to get into the scenic artists union, he began his own decorative painting business, Jeff Raum Studios. His clients include Gucci, the Las Vegas Hilton, the Luxor, and Macy’s.

In 1998, Jeff began his stencil line, Jeff Raum Stencils, after the overwhelming response of SALI members to an article in the Artistic Stenciler. Jan Dressler became familiar with Jeff’s work and recommended him to appear on “The Christopher Lowell Show” and Jeff went on to appear in eight episodes.

Jeff was a part-time instructor of Interior Design at Moorpark College for nine years. His work has been published in Better Homes and Gardens and Traditional Home magazines as well as an Italian book on stenciling. Jeff is featured in the book Mural Painting Secrets for Success by Gary Lord.”

How to create atmospheric perspective in a Tuscan Mural.

This demo is showing only the middle ground of the finished piece and as I paint, I always keep in mind where this is in relation to the viewer. I start at the top of the mural and work my way down for a couple of reasons –  a) Keeps me from dripping on finished work and b) allows me to slowly change my palette as I go. In atmospheric perspective, objects are cooler, have less contrast, and the intensity, or chroma of the color is less as the objects recede. I try to keep my work sedate in the back and middle grounds so that I can “pull out all the stops” in the foreground and make it pop.

Step 1.  Layout and Background

Step 1

Step 1

The background in atmospheric perspective should be very blue (or cool), so the distant hills are done in grey-blues and blue-greens. Very simply and quickly. To push them back more, I put a wash of my sky color over them. I pencil in the layout of the buildings next.

Step 2.  Laying in the village

Step 2

I lay in my village, always keeping in mind the light source and keeping the colors cool and low key. Just to get rid of all the white, I base in the ground, making the distant ground cooler and lighter.

Step 3. Adding detail

  

Step 3

Step 3

 I Add detail to my buildings, but keeping it simple to imply detail. I’m painting for humans, not hawks! Then I add detail to the ground and lay out my rows of grape vines by painting the shadows they cast first.

Step 4 Enhancing detail

Step 4

Step 4

Now I block in the foliage, using a darker, but still cool, color around the village to make the light buildings pop a bit and help focus the viewer’s attention on the focal point. Using “ratty” brushes, I scumble in the distant trees and as I move forward darken the green. The foreground trees are based-in a darker, warmer shade of green

Step 5. Highlighting

Step 5

Step 5

Now I go in and add highlights to all the foliage, keeping it concentrated on the left side of the forms. In the foreground, I add a lighter highlight to create more contrast and make them pop more than the background trees. In creating the rows of grapevines, I have to keep in mind my perspective. They get larger as the come nearer and as the vine go up the hill, the view of them changes from looking down on them to seeing them from the side. Last thing is to add some occasional posts to support the vines.

Completed Mural

Completed Mural

Below are a few more examples of Jeff’s extraordinary work and more information can be found at:

http://www.jeffraumart.com/index.html

Italian Arch

Italian Arch

Tuscany Dining

Tuscany Dining

Statue with Fruit

Statue with Fruit

FANLIGHTS – A BRIEF HISTORY AND RESTORATION OF A FANLIGHT AT GRADE 1 LISTED GATEHOUSE, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE

Fanlight commission for Grade I listed Gatehouse, Buckinghamshire.

David R Agnew, respected Craftsman Decorator from Newport Pagnell in the UK is back to tell us about the history of the fanlight and the work involved when he was commissioned to restore one in a Listed Gatehouse.

Introduction by Client/Architect

Tyringham Gateway was built in 1794 to the design of the eminent architect Sir John Soane and despite its small size it is acclaimed worldwide as a monument of European importance.  Indeed, the late poet and renowned architectural historian Sir John Betjeman considered the Gateway and its close neighbour Tyringham Bridge as “the most perfect small buildings I know in England” Unsurprisingly they are both Grade I listed buildings.

By the mid/late 19th century – less than 100 years after its completion – the Gateway stood uninhabited and unloved with its sash windows and entrance doorways blocked up with stonework.  Fortunately in 1909 the building underwent general repairs and improvements when the original late Georgian entrance doors and fanlights were removed and replaced with new.  Sadly no photographs of the originals have been discovered however it can be safely assumed that the semicircular fanlights would have had very narrow astragals or glazing-bars, which were fashionable in the late Georgian and Regency eras.  Regrettably the Edwardian replacements were crude and heavy-handed, totally alien to Soane’s refined joinery detailing.

Precedent studies of other Soane buildings show that he frequently created metal (rather than wood) fanlights.  These involved the workshop fabrication of compound glazing-bars or astragals, in which narrow moulded ribs of malleable cast iron or lead were crimped onto thin webs of flat iron or brass, resulting in a very fine and delicate appearance.  One manufacturer of these astragals in the late 18th century was the Eldorado Company in London.

Knowing that David Agnew was an experienced craftsman accomplished at creating present-day leaded lights, I asked him whether he would consider making three fanlights based upon the Eldorado pattern for me, assuming that (as the Eldorado Company was no longer in existence) we could source the essential malleable iron or lead ribs.  Soane frequently used pale yellow or amber stained glass in his fanlights and rooflights and a joint decision was taken to do the same in order to increase “authenticity”. 

Barry Clayton,

Retired conservation Architect.

tumblr_inline_mhwvqvmiPz1qz4rgp

Fanlight commission for Grade I listed Gatehouse, Buckinghamshire.

Fanlights are not particularly unusual, even leaded glass panels – each displays a certain uniqueness.  The thing most unusual about these fanlights is the system employed.  For craftspeople working on old buildings, this system was only employed for a generation and was left to obscurity some two hundred years ago!  I feel it is important that fellow craftspeople will be able to identify surviving fanlights and afford the recognition and respect they deserve through passing on this knowledge.

The following project is by no means the protocol in the manufacture of these special windows, I merely wanted to document the way I went about making these ones, to achieve the desired results and would hope it is helpful to anyone else taking on something similar.

Further reading & information can be found within this excellent book – Fanlights – an architectural History by Alexander Stuart Grey & John Sambrook. ISBN 07136430779

A GENERAL AND POTTED HISTORY ABOUT THE FANLIGHT

Fanlights have nearly always been a feature above front doors, never more so, during the Georgian and Victorian period. They were designed particularly to allow natural light into narrow entrances.

The early examples, had very thick glazing bars, but during the late mid and late Georgian periods 1760 – 1810, there was almost a competition between designers and architects, on who could come up with the most elaborate designs & with the thinnest glazing bars.

Timber, having limitations as to the elaborate patterns that could be achieved within a curved aperture for example, persuaded innovation to dictate manufacture, from a malleable material, a thin profile from lead. These are sometimes known as ‘Eldorado’ glazing bars.

The profile is an ‘Astragal’ and is just 10mm at it’s widest point, the webs, which are inserted into the back are brass in a lot of cases, as this is malleable and can follow intricate shapes. It is not uncommon to find steel ones, but this is mainly confined to straight bars or pre-formed shapes.

Something else worthy of note, is on some really elaborate and decorative fanlights, you can see garlands of wreaths and ‘Adam’ stile urns etc. one famous fanlight, would be 10 Downing Street, London. If you look carefully, you can see in the middle, some curved leaves, these are made of cast lead.

Anyway, a potted & brief history.

Here is quite an elaborate example, featuring garlands and floral motifs. Circa 1780. Before and after restoration.

Here is quite an elaborate example, featuring garlands and floral motifs. Circa 1780. Before and after restoration.

Another example in for repair and again showing floral motifs

Another example in for repair and again showing floral motifs

I was commissioned to produce three fanlight windows for a grade one listed Gatehouse, Buckinghamshire, England. Built in 1794 and designed by Sir John Soane. One of the fanlights commissioned is an internal feature, dividing a bedroom and ensuite above a mahogany door. The glass consists of two different shades of amber, with blue slips around the perimeter – which is a typical Soane feature. The other two fanlights are above external entrance doors where I had to make alterations to the frame, more on that later.

Having being briefed & then commissioned with this project, I then had to source the material, as lead glazing bars are not commonly available. Stumped on how to find the obscure materials needed, I thought I would explore the idea of making my own and to see if I could. I first of all would need a mould, I used my router and suitable profile bits to rout grooves in a peace of maple wood – I had read somewhere that maple is quite resilient to heat, which would be ideal for a mould.

Router bits  and the resulting astragal cast lead profile in maple wood mould.

Router bits and the resulting astragal cast lead profile in
maple wood mould.

Router bits and  the resulting astragal cast lead profile in maple wood mould.  The results of the casting were reasonably okay. However, I had a problem with trying to work out how I could get a groove in the back for the brass webs. Whilst I was casting and having a dabble with lead, I thought I would try my hand at some of the ornaments which are found on fanlights. I did not have any elaborate moulds made from maple, so I used air drying clay to make my moulds because it is unaffected by the molten material. I simply found various applique ornaments kicking around the workshop, some were wood and some were plaster, I just pressed them into the clay and allowed the clay to dry over several days. It is important that the clay is not damp because the lead can explode. I used a propane gas torch, normally used for burning paint off, wedged between bricks and rested the iron ladle on top to heat and cut small pieces of lead until I filled the ladle and melted enough to fill the moulds. I have in the past, also used fine sand to cast ornament.

Should a new ornament be needed to repair a missing or damaged one on a fanlight in situ, then my method would be to take a latex mould from the existing pattern. I would then fill the latex and make a plaster proto type, then use this either press in sand or a clay mould prior to casting in lead.

However, I believe there are other moulding materials, which could be explored, such as resin. But for me, lead would be the honest route in order to restore.

Practice cast lead and clay moulds together with the iron ladle for melting the lead.

Practice cast lead and clay moulds together with the iron
ladle for melting the lead.

Anyway, apart from all the experimenting, amusing as it was, Indeed to get on with the project in hand  to execute it as professionally as possible. So………….we move on to the task.

I had the beads extruded by special order and to my specifications by a company specializing in the manufacture of lead came for the ‘stained glass’ industry – to which I also dabble.

photo1

Photo 1

photo2

Photo 2

The lead arrived in 1000mm lengths all coiled up. The brass is 0.9mm thick and 18mm width, which I managed to source from a trade stall dealing with scrap metal at a country show and steam rally. I think it might have been used for the decorative banding used to go round the boilers on the steam engines!!

Photo 2 shows the brass inserted into the groove, in the back of the lead bar. The lead itself, shown coiled up in photo 1, is 10mm in width. However, once it is uncoiled from manufacture, I hold one end in a vice and then pull the lead to straighten it. This also stiffens and as a consequence reduces its width to 8mm.

We now move on to making the window to fit its intended aperture. This starts with a full size working drawing, which has been checked for fitment.  The lead, after having been uncoiled and stiffened, is manipulated and placed over the lines of the drawing. It is held temporarily with horseshoe nails – because these have a flat side – until the whole lead skeleton of the window bars are laid out.

photo3

Photo 3

photo4

Photo 4

photo5

Photo 5

photo6

Photo 6

To fix the lead joints, I cleaned the joints with a wire brush and rubbed a tallow candle over the joints as a flux prior to soldering.  Once this procedure is complete, the whole window is turned over so that the brass strips can be inserted into the groove to form the webs for the rebate. I use plumbers acid flux at each joint prior to soldering with lead/tin solder. This really does stiffen the whole window panel considerably. All the joints are then cleaned up; a certain amount of delicate cutting back is needed in order to maintain the lead profile – Photo 7. The glazing bars and the brass webs are then thoroughly degreased prior to the application of cellulose primer.

Photo 7

Photo 7

We now move on to prepare for the glazing of our new window. The glass needs to be cut accurately as there is little margin for error, with the rebates being so very narrow, plus, cutting concave sections can have its risks too, as this has to be done by hand and not against a straight edge.

Turning over the window and working from the back, I lay the glass over for each section. I am able to see through the glass and proceed to run the cutter just inside the web line, making a ‘score’. A consistent score is required for the glass to then be taken aside, where pressure is placed on the score to which it will break – hopefully! I cut all the glass for each individual section, and then number each piece.

Photo 8

Photo 8

Photo 9

Photo 9

We are now able to proceed with fitting the already cut glass. Using ordinary linseed oil putty, the rebates are run with a bead to bed the glass in. photo 8 & 9.

Photo 10

Photo 10

Photo 11

Photo 11

Having bed all the glass in each aperture, we proceed with running a bead to create a face putty. This wedge shaped fillet will hold the glass in position. The rebate each side of the brass web is less than 3.5mm. When facing the putty it is extremely important that the putty line next to the glass, is kept back from the rebate by about 1mm, or it will be seen when viewed from the front, which is unsightly and undesirable.

The whole panel has been designed to fit in a ply sub frame or a kind of sash, which will fit snugly into the rebate of the main doorframe. Photo 12 may demonstrate this, by showing the outer perimeter from the inside, where it has been fitted to the sub frame by the use of escutcheon nails through the outer brass webbing and into the sub frame.

Photo 12

Photo 12

After installation, I applied mid brown eggshell finish to both sides, followed by a translucent dark brown eggshell to simulate the colour of the door and to achieve a ‘woody’ effect.

Photo 13

Photo 13

Photo 14

Photo 14

The finished window now installed as an internal feature to divide two rooms.  We now move on to the other two fanlights, which will be above two external doors. Built in exactly the same way as the internal fanlight previously. The only difference is that the main door frame had to have subtle alterations to accommodate the fanlight panel.

Previously, there was an existing fanlight, which had four divisions and was installed during the Edwardian period.   Inappropriately thick glazing bars and completely out of kilter with the refined design details of the building. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of this, but I altered the head of the frame above the door to incorporate a nameplate for each Gatehouse Lodge. A design detail by way of applied reeded moulding, which is contemporary for the building as there is evidence on other buildings designed by the same architect. Here is a clearer picture of the sub frame, mentioned earlier. Photo 15

Photo 15

Photo 15

Photo 16

Photo 16

Photo 17

Photo 17

Photos 16 & 17 show the fanlights in their external position, facing all the weather can throw at them.  They have been protected with several coats of Sikkens Cetol BL, a water-based hybrid satin finish  BS 12, B29.  The signs are of course, gold leaf.

Photo 18

Photo 18

A shot from inside looking out.  Amber glass, this time in monochrome with no varying shades or blue perimeter slips.

Here is the overall picture, complete with door and masonry to frame the effect.

Here is the overall picture, complete
with door and masonry
to frame the effect.

 

ENAMELLED SLATE FIRE SURROUNDS – HISTORY, RESTORATION AND REPRODUCTION

HISTORY
The process of enamelling slate to resemble marble was patented in 1840 by George Eugene Magnus who had spent a portion of his youth in the potteries area of Staffordshire and indeed married an earthenware manufacturer’s daughter, Mary Boyle.

001_magnus

As a result Magnus would have been familiar with decorating, glazing and firing pottery. In 1838 Magnus acquired an interest in a slate quarry in North Wales and another on Valentia Island, off the west coast of Ireland, with a view to obtaining slate for billiard tables.

Soon after he perfected and patented the enamelling process and set up ‘The Pimlico Slate Company’ where he produced not only billiard tables but all manner of household items. Baths, clocks, chimney pieces, wall panels and doors were just a selection of what was on offer in all types of enamelled imitation marbles and inlays.

For this article we will focus on the enamel slate chimney pieces, which were available in a myriad of styles and colours – indeed in over twenty years of restoring and reproducing the finishes I have yet to come across two the same.

The slate chimney piece or fire surround as it is now more commonly known, was an immediate sensation, being more durable, less expensive and thus more accessible to discerning architects and clients. Catalogues began to spring up from different companies which illustrations of the various designs available.

slate catalogue

50_1997_6_003

PROCESS
The process patented by George Eugene Magnus was this:

A mixture of linseed oil, ground umber, spirit of tar and asphaltum was painted onto the slate, this was then fired in a kiln at two hundred degrees Fahrenheit for up to forty eight hours, creating a tough enamel layer on the slate. This was then hand polished into a rich lustre with pumice and rottenstone.

Different colours could be overlaid and with skilled application a variety of marbles could be replicated. A less expensive method and one I have come across most was to enamel in plain black, then dip the pieces into a water bath on which the craftsman floated a combination of oil colours. This was then hand veined and finished with a French polish.

untitled

RESTORATION

The restoration of these chimney pieces has several stages.

For a fitted surround in fair condition it can be as simple as identifying the finish, whether it is enamel or French polish. This can be done by testing an inconspicuous area with alcohol which will dissolve French polish.

If enamelled then careful colour matching with artist’s oil colours can be used to touch up the original finish. When dry a coat of protective varnish is applied to the whole piece.

French polish can darken over time, dulling the colours of the marbling. This can be completely removed with alcohol without damaging the underlying colours and the piece can be repolished.

Unfortunately most of the surrounds that arrive at my workshop are in a sorry state of disrepair, having been painted over, left outside or broken.

The only option available in this instance is to remove all of the paint or enamel, repair and start again. Major structural repairs are carried out by the fire place company, resetting the returns on the uprights and the corbels and filling cracks and chips with a two part epoxy filler.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The pieces are then sent to me for cosmetic restoration.

COSMETIC RESTORATION AND REPRODUCTION

The first stage is removing the old paint or enamelled finish, a process made more difficult by the banning of the active ingredient in most paint strippers, dichloromethane. Once the paint is off and the surface has been cleaned, any incised linework is cleaned out with a sharp awl. The slate is then lightly sanded.

I tend to finish them in a sprayed cellulous paint as it mimics the original enamel finish. A clear sealer is sprayed onto the slate, then two coats of black satin cellulose paint are applied.

30072008476

30072008478

For a grain effect, I use a tan coloured base (Dulux Heritage Gold Colour) for oak and a Burmese Ruby colour as a base for mahogany/rosewood grain. All graining is carried out in traditional oil scumbles. Grain surrounds are usually a straight brush grain, flogged to create pores. Sometimes a burl effect is employed using torn card and artist’s fan brushes.

DSC01064

Marble effects are done in artist’s oil colours mixed with a bit of homemade glaze (gilp) and a proprietary clear scumble. This are invariably fantasy marbles, going on a colour brief from the client.

The panels are taped off, colour glaze is applied either by brush and removed by various means or by sponge and softened with a badger softener. A flick of white spirit opens up the glaze to give a more organic appearance.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Veining is added when dry with a squirrel hair dagger brush or a feather. Any incised linework is then picked out in gold enamel paint. The finish is two to three coats of matt varnish, hand buffed with beeswax and 0000 grade wire wool to a deep lustre.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A further blog post will cover the reproduction of waterslide transfers found on most of the grained surrounds in the form of imitation inlays.

fireplace3fireplace4

fireplace5
By Michael O’Regan